Maintaining Summer Sanity!

Now that summer is here the schedule for most families has changed.  Whether one parent is at home with children or both are out of the house during the day, everyone’s routine is upended for the summer.  For most of us, without the routine of our daily schedules, things in our world can fall apart.  Here are a few ideas that may help keep everyone sane for the summer.

1.  Create a summer routine and stick with it.  However loose your summer schedule may be, it will all just go better for everyone if there is some type of routine or schedule maintained.  Even if it is getting up late, hanging out by the pool and barbequing supper (don’t we wish), knowing what each day will bring just makes everyone calmer.  

2. Plan out the summer’s activities in advance and let everyone in on the plan.  During the bulk of the year we all know what is happening.  There is start of school, fall break, Thanksgiving, Christmas, spring break and so on, all usually outlined on calendars for all to see.  But the summer just lays out before us like a vast, unending stretch of sand and it can easily get out of control and chaotic without planning.  If both parents are working outside the home, having summer activities, including vacation, planned well in advance will help ease children into the transition of different activities and caregivers.  

3.  Keep meals simple and easy.   Children tend to want to sleep later in the summer, so rather that stopping to feed each child as they get up, make food easy to access in the refrigerator and pantry and let them take care of themselves.  Keep plenty of easy foods, like fruits and veggies handy for snacking, dry cereal and milk for breakfast and finger foods you can make early in the day and leave in the fridge for lunch.  If you have small children that need help, stocking your pantry with simple easy foods can save time, even if you still have to help them with meals.  

4.  Get creative with your work schedule.   This seems a little obvious, but I do have clients who struggle with working from home during the summer and being productive.  Normally most folks with children need to get up early to get the children out of the house and then they can work.  However in the summer children tend to sleep in and it is tempting to do the same.  However, if you maintain your early morning rising time, and instead of getting children out of the house, you spend that time working you can hang out with the children once they are up and about.  If you are a stay-at-home parent and you would like some time to yourself, those early mornings work well for that too!

5.  Get the children involved with household chores.  I usually get a rash of phone calls the day after school opens in the fall with Moms complaining that their organized house has fallen apart.  To avoid getting behind on household duties during the summer, enlist your children (assuming they are old enough) in weekly clean up. They may not do things quite up to your standards but even small children can dust the low parts and it gives children insight into what needs to be done to maintain a household.

6.  Create a home for all the summer gear.  Because summer carries with it unique, fun activities that often involve water, there is equipment out that we normally don’t see during the year.  Create a space in your garage (not your car) to put all that stuff at the end of each day or each activity.  Not having to look for the snorkeling gear, beach balls and swim suits each time you leave the house will eliminate a lot of arguments and tension.  

7.  Enjoy yourself and your children.  Time has a way of slipping through our fingers and all too soon summer is very quiet.  Take time to enjoy the chaos that is your home in summer.  

The Benefits of Being Organized

Sometimes it’s hard to get started on the path to good time management and organizing your space because it is hard to see the benefit.  I have talked with many people who tell me that “it just never sticks” or “I don’t know where to start” and therefore they find it hard to see why gaining control of time and space even matters.  There are however more that a few benefits to harnessing some life strategies for being organized and on top of time and tasks.

1.  Organized people gain a sense of control over their environment and their time.  This may seem insignificant but when we feel that we have control of our space and our calendar, we can actually relax a little better.  We know what’s coming next which takes the urgency and the drama out of everyday situations. 

2.  Getting organized gives you back some space.  Have you ever noticed that when you clean up and organize a space you find you actually have more space when everything has a place to live?  

3.  You can sleep a little later because you can find your stuff.  Have you ever been trying to get out of the house in the morning and you can’t find your keys or phone?  When you are organized all those items you need each morning will be right where they are supposed to be waiting for you each morning.  

4.  You can spend more time doing the things you love.  Once you are organized and you start to take control of your time and tasks, you will notice that you have more time for fun things you enjoy.

5.  It will save you money because you will no longer need to buy things you already own but can’t find.  

6.  You will be able to entertain more.  Many times my clients tell me they have not entertained in their home for years because they are just too embarrassed.

There are countless benefits to being more organized with your time and space, both personally and professionally.  Each time I am asked to assist someone to get organized or coach them for time management or other skill development they have a different story and a different reason that they have come to the place of needing assistance.   I can come up with lots of benefits, but the only benefit that matters is the one that speaks to you.  

Need help getting organized?  Email me and let’s talk.  

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Paper – the Biggest Source of Clutter

For most of us, paper is our biggest enemy.  It gets into our homes and offices with everything we do.  It comes from the mail, school, work, and places we are not even sure about (my pool guy leaves me a piece of paper each week for goodness sakes!).  Because there is so much of it, we need to get control of our paper if we are ever going to calm the clutter in our homes and offices.  

1.  Trace the source.  If you want to get control you need to find out just where all your paper comes from.  My paper source will be different from yours and we each need to manage our sources differently.  For instance, since I no longer have children in school there is no “school paper” in my piles of paper each day.  But I have a couple of businesses I run out of my home, so my source of paper comes from companies that support those businesses.  If you want to get control of the paper in your world you need to determine the sources of the problem.  Take a week or two to collect and sort the paper that comes into your home.  You heard me, collect and sort.  By collecting and sorting you avoid throwing the baby out with the bathwater.  There will be paper you need or want to keep, this will help you know the difference.

2.  Keep What You Really Need.  There are items you will want to keep; school memorabilia, contracts, deeds, passports, birth certificates etc.  Once you have completed your detective work to determine the source of all your paper it is time to determine what you want to keep from those piles.    Sort your files in order of importance, throw away the things that should never make it past the mailbox; flyers, letters addressed to “resident” etc.  Determine the types of paper you will always keep and also the things that will always be immediately tossed.  Do this thoughtfully and keep only what you need.

3.  Assign a storage place and a filing method for the paper you deem important enough to keep.  This step is really important.  Just like everything we own, the paper we allow in our space must have a permanent place to live.  If it doesn’t it will be clutter and you will eventually never see it again.  Storage space does not always mean that you must put it in a physical filing cabinet.  The added benefit of technology taking over our lives is that most things can be scanned and filed electronically.   You can then throw that paper away.  This is also a way to store the memories that children bring home every day from school.  Who doesn’t want to keep their child’s kindergarten hand print?  Keep and display it for awhile, and then scan it and throw it away.  I really wish I could have scanned some of those items that lived on my frig over the years.  

4.  Touch it once.  You will hear this statement from every organizer in the world but in order for paper to become clutter in needs to lay around the house for awhile.  If you don’t allow that to happen you prevent the problem.  Touching paper once means that all the stuff that comes into your house has a predetermined place to live.  It is usually either a bill, something from your children you want to keep, invitation, event notices, cards, and letters.  Each item that comes to the home should be given a plan of action to eliminate its clutter potential.  Bills are paid and filed (or put in a place to be paid) children’s items are displayed or scanned, invitations are noted on calendars and responded to, then thrown away, and so on.  It may not be feasible to always “touch it once” but if that is the goal, it will happen more often than you think.  

Although paper is ubiquitous, it does not have to overwhelm our homes and offices.  If you implement this plan of action just once, you will be in control of your paper and eliminate its potential to become a monster.  

Need help getting organized?  Email me and let’s talk.  

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Strategies for Time Management

There are so many ideas and thoughts about time management.  I would say the number one question I get from my clients is “how can I manage my time better?”  Because in the end whether you are trying to get and stay organized, build a successful business, or help your kids learn to manage their time, we all need to be better managers of time. 

When I consider helping folks better manage their time there are a few fundamental strategies that we can employ to improve time management immediately.  

1.  Are you realistic about what you can get done?  Being realistic about exactly what is possible to get done in a given time period is basic to know exactly what will get done.  Many people underestimate the amount of uninterrupted time they have available to them each day.  Because this is true they often put more on their “to do” list than is completely ‘doable’.  The result of this misconception, many people are frustrated with their time management and therefore frustrated with themselves.  

2. Make a list of what you need to get done daily and write down the estimated the amount of time you think each item will need.  Making a list of tasks is not enough to help you get more done.  In fact, if you are slightly unrealistic about what you can do, putting a time allotment on each task will reveal help you understand what is realistic in the future.  It will also help you to become more mindful of how far time can be stretched.  

3.  Create your task list every evening.   After you have had a few hours to unwind from the day’s activities, jot down your 5 top “to do” items for the next day.  Make sure you include the amount of time each will take.  Creating the list the night before not only gives you a head start in the morning, it will help you more effectively process what needs to be done.

4.  Don’t do all the heavy lifting.  Just because an item is your list does not mean you need to do it.  Years ago I utilized the benefits of the Franklin Planner system for time management.  One of the cool things about that system is that it encouraged you to manage the tasks you have over many days.  You would plan your week and create the tasks for each day and then give you a way to manage each task.  You could do it yourself, move an unfinished task to another time, or delegate it to someone else.  The delegate feature is something many people are reluctant to do, but if delegating becomes part of the task process, you will get more done.

5.  Become an early riser.  I am always astounded at how much new stuff I can get done each day if I rise just a little earlier in the day.  It is because there are some items on my list that I try to do daily, like exercise and meditative reading.  If I want to get more done, I get up and do those routine things early in the day and then I can start my task list earlier as well.  So even if you don’t rise extra early each day, try it a couple times a week and you will be astounded at what you achieve on that day.  

25 Things You Can Throw Away Today

When I work with clients who have become overwhelmed by all the stuff in their lives the comment that I hear most often is “I really don’t know where to start!”  Then when we get started either throwing away or giving away things they no longer use, they are surprised about how easy it gets to decide to get rid of items they no longer need or use.   The process begins to make sense.  The point is not to get rid of the things you value, but rather the things that have, for whatever reason, lost their value.  Here is a list of the 25 common things you can start to let go of as you consider your fall purge. 

1.  Broken costume jewelry and earrings without a mate.

2. Greeting cards from people you don’t know or like.

3. Socks with holes

4.  Old magazines

5.  Shoes that are old and wrecked

6.  Children’s old clothes that are stained and no longer fit.

7.  Old torn and tattered towel

8.  Old makeup

9.  Expired samples of makeup and toiletries

10. Old, dried up nail polish

11. Old prom dresses

12. Underwear that has lost its stretch

13.  Purses you never use or that are damaged and have lived a good life

14.  Small appliances that still work, like coffee makers, that have been replaced by something else.

15. Travel brochures

16.  Old craft supplies like dried out paints, glitter, and glue

17. Bits of ribbon to small to be used for anything

18. Used envelopes

19. Computer cords from computers you no longer own

20. Old manuals from appliances you no longer own

21. Cell phone accessories from old cell phones

22. Cell phones

23. CDs for old computer programs, (there’s an app for everything now)

24. Address labels from your last address

25. Old wedding invitations

Are You Insane?

Albert Einstein is credited with stating “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  Although I don’t really believe that is the true definition of insanity, I do believe that many of us get caught in the trap of attacking a problem, personally and professionally, the same way over and over and expecting to get a positive result.  

Although I am a big fan of tenacity, and I teach all my clients to stick with the steps they need to produce success, there are times when we need to re-evaluate our solutions.  Whether you are trying to lose weight and get fitter, improve your personal relationships or build a business, it is possible to get stuck in a rut.  So how do you know when you need to change direction or to just shake things up a little?

1.  Have you failed at this problem so often that each time you try, you expect to fail?  Failure, especially repeated failure, will chip at your confidence and soon you are programmed to fail.  The minute you expect something will not work, it is time to re-evaluate your process.

2.  Do you see this challenge as bigger than you?  If you have come to believe that this is a problem that you will never conquer, but you feel you must keep trying, it is likely time to assess your perceived solution.

3.  Is the failure leading to depression?  Solving problems, achieving goals and building successes should be fun and exhilarating, however, when failure happens over and over again it can lead to depression.  At this point, it is definitely time to rethink solutions.

So once you have decided to stop the insanity, what do you do next?

1.  Re-evaluate the need to conquer this problem.  I know that sounds like quitting, but by starting at the beginning, that is the problem or challenge itself, you can assess your own motives for achievement.  Trying to do something for the wrong reasons, can lead to failure before you start.  

2.  If you decide you still want or need to meet the challenge, list all the ways you have tried to beat the challenge.  This step is important because this will tell you if you have been hitting the problem the same way each time you tried or if you are looking at the problem from different angles.  Sometimes we don’t recognize that we are doing the same things repeatedly.

3.  List the ways you haven’t tried and then ask yourself why you haven’t tried them.  For instance, let’s say you are trying to lose weight and you have tried Weight Watchers 5 times and each time you have failed.  Maybe Weight Watchers, although a perfectly valid program, is just not for you. 

4.  Enlist the help of others.  Sometimes we can only see a problem one way.  Ask someone you know well and someone you don’t know well, to give you ideas on how to solve the challenge.  People you know, understand you and can help give solutions they think may work for you, while acquaintances can really provide out-of-the-box thoughts.  

Although tenacity has its rewards, it is important to be mindful of how we meet the challenges we face, and how the process is working.   You may not be insane, but if success is still alluding you perhaps a re-evaluation is in order.  

5 Habits Your Future Self with Thank You For Doing

1.  Exercise regularly  I thought I would mention this one first because most of us groan when we think of sweating through an exercise session.  However, exercise if one of those habits that just makes everything else you do easier.  Regular exercise will help you manage your weight, avoid the diseases of aging, provides a tool to manage stress and will generally improve your feeling of well-being.  And, when your 60 or 70 year-old-self can still go hiking and biking and keep up with the grandkids, you will be glad you kept it up all those years.  

2.  Read for pleasure and carry a book with you at all times – There are lots of reasons that people lose their love of reading if indeed they ever loved it.  Work, school, family commitments, volunteering, overwork, and a host of other things make us all feel as though reading is a luxury that one just can’t afford.  Reading, however, is a way to step away and fall into another world, and allow your mind to relax.  Reading opens your mind to allow for greater creativity and problem-solving.  Reading makes you a more interesting person. Having a book with you ensures you will always have something to do when people inevitably keep you waiting.  

3.  Take the Stairs and park far away – Because we all know that it’s ambitious to expect to get to the gym 3 or 4 times a week and eat on target 100% of the time, it is wise to build a back door into staying healthy.  By taking the stairs when possible, and parking in such a way as to have to walk some distance to get to the grocery store, you will ensure that your body will get some exercise all the time.  In the long run, your 70-year-old body will thank you.  

4. Set some goals – When you look back on your life you will be glad that you set some goals.  It is my contention that most people accomplish exactly what they plan to.  If you don’t plan, you don’t accomplish.  Where do you want to go, who would you like to meet, what sites would you like to behold; they all start with a goal.  Your future self will have plenty to think about and remember if you set and achieve a few goals.

5. Make some really good friends – Friendships are important for our well-being throughout life, so cultivate a few really good ones and make sure you make them a priority.  Having friends gives you someone to share the highs and the lows of life with.  Build real friends, not just people you hang out with. 

Managing Others’ Expectations

Managing others expectations –  We are all asked to do tasks each day, either from a boss, client or customer, family member and so on. We have an understanding of what we are asked to do, and so does the person who asks for your help.  That person may or may not be on the same page as you about the task.  You could spend hours doing something that was entirely different from the original request.  To prevent mismanaged expectations and wasted time, try the feedback method to the other individual explaining what you think you’ve heard, then wait for any clarification or changes before you start your task. Once you’ve both sets of expectations in alignment, you will do just what you need to do and avoid wasting time. 

Managing what you expect from others – Another source of wasted time that involves our expectations is the frustration and disappointment we feel in the unfulfilled expectations of other people’s behavior. “Why won’t my clients, suppliers, kids, spouse, employees, friends, and so forth, act the way I think they should?  Sadly this is a problem you simply can’t solve, but it can waste a lot of time to keep trying.  You can never be pleased if you’re attached to the expectations or outcomes you have for others, regardless who they are.  The execution of all behavior by other people is in their hands, not yours.  Don’t waste time expecting everyone in your life to meet your expectations.  

Managing expectations requires we learn to comprehend and accept other people as they grow through the individual lessons life has thrown in their path, despite our attitudes, feelings, or opinions. They might not always act as we would have, or we think they should have, but that’s just the way it is…it simply is.

Whether we like it not we do waste a lot of time worrying about what we are expected to do and what we are expecting from others.  The key to getting your time back is to manage those expectations and move forward with the goals and plans we have for ourselves.

Organizing Is NEVER Enough

Although organizing your clutter is a great place to start, and will make you feel like you are in control, it is only a temporary solution.  If you have spent time and money on getting organized but you did not eliminate any of your possessions, you may find yourself doing the exact same thing in just a few months.  Why?  Because even though your stuff is organized, you still have too much of it!  As you buy new items that need storage, you will end up with the same clutter problem due to lack of space.  

The key to good organization is the step that allows you to make decisions about how to dispose of items you no longer use or just have grown tired of seeing.  The idea of getting rid of things can be very scary for some people, but it doesn’t have to cripple you.   Start slowly and go space-by-space throughout your home or office.  Treat the organization process more like a marathon rather than a sprint and don’t eliminate this critical step.  

So if you have taken the step to get organized yourself or you have even hired an organizer, but you feel like it hasn’t helped that much, ask yourself if you actually got rid of that much.  If the answer is “no” then it is time to rethink your organizing strategy.  Here are some easy, painless ways to reduce possessions.  

1.  Take five minutes per storage space and ask yourself what you haven’t used lately.  In your kitchen, for instance, you may have dishes, pots and pans or utensils that you have owned for years but you don’t remember the last time you used them.  Pull them out and donate these items to someone who may need just that item.

2.  In your closet, take out one or two items of clothing per month that you no longer wear because it is outdated or too small and put in a donate bag.  Do the same in your children’s closet.  

3.  For items, you use seasonally, like Christmas decorations, at the start of each new season remove one or two items you no longer use.  Get rid of all decorations that are broken or outdated.

It doesn’t have to hurt to make room for possessions and it doesn’t have to be done quickly.  However if you feel getting organized has not improved your life, ask yourself what’s missing?

Mind Dump

Monday is often the day that thoughts, ideas, and things-to-remember clutter our minds to the point that many of us often can’t get anything done.  This is a challenge that I hear from many clients.  Their minds are always racing and it is almost impossible to turn it off and often because they are afraid of forgetting something important or letting someone down.

There is one mind-clearing-technique that I share with my clients that seem to work very well; the brain dump.  This is one of the best ways to release all those “to do” thoughts, creative ideas and clear your mind for rest and relaxation.

It is very simple all you have to do is to get a nice notebook and start writing.  To start, write everything that comes into your mind, in any order.  Don’t try to sort it out or organize the thoughts, just write.  You can write down anything, from stuff that makes your crazy, to stuff that needs to be done to packing lists and project ideas.  When done you will be able to sort through all the writing and create a list of action items.  

This technique is especially helpful if you are in the midst of trying to stay on top of many details in several areas of your life.  You can get it all down on paper, then allow your mind to relax and rest because there is no danger of forgetting anything with your new quick reference guide.  You can now focus on a few items at a time and systematically work through any project, all with a mind fresh from a good night’s sleep.